Spring is upon us, and the redwood forest around my home has come to life. A friend told me recently that the lush clover-like ground cover that’s been popping up all spring in my yard is actually edible! It’s called Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana), and its leaves have long been eaten by Native Americans on the Pacific coast. After a bit of research, I headed outside with a basket to collect some for our dinner salad.
Redwood Sorrel, not to be confused with the also edible garden sorrel, has a tangy, lemony flavor that is a great accent to salads. One thing to note, however, is that is should only be eaten in small quantities, because it contains oxalic acid that can disrupt digestion in large amounts. Since it’s a bit on the sour side, you probably won’t be tempted to overdo it anyway.
Wild harvesting has deep historical roots but is rarely practiced today. There are many wild plants that can be eaten, but be sure to consult a book such as The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America or Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants for proper identification and tips on where to find and how to use your wild harvest. Harvesting wild plants from your own neighborhood is about as local as you can get, so it’s a very sustainable practice. Just be sure to do your homework to find out if the plants you seek are threatened or endangered before harvesting, and leave plenty of the plant behind, taking only what you will use right away. Don’t gather plants near roads or other possible sources of contamination. In the case of Redwood Sorrel, the stuff literally covers the ground under the redwood trees in my yard, so it was certainly easy to get a small and sustainable harvest.
Redwood Sorrel makes a great ground cover for shaded areas. It produces beautiful clover-like leaves with three heart-shaped sections and white to pink flowers in spring. It grows wild on the Pacific coast from central California to British Columbia, and here in Mendocino county, California, it’s definitely in season and in abundance!
With a handful or two of Redwood Sorrel collected, I invented a tangy salad with a variety of contrasting textures and flavors. I used all organic ingredients (of course!) and look forward to making more of this salad soon with the spinach I recently planted in my community garden plot. This salad is extra green and nutritious since it’s vegan, but if you’re not up for the adventure of homemade vegan “feta,” regular feta cheese will work as well. Enjoy, and happy harvesting!
Tangy Redwood Sorrel Spring Salad
- 2 to 4 cups spinach or other greens (depending on how many people you’re serving)
- 1 ripe organic mango, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/3 cup or so of tofu “feta”
- handful of sprouts of your choice
- handful of wild harvested Redwood Sorrel (rinsed well)
- 1/4 cup or so of pine nuts, cashews, or any nuts you fancy
- For the dressing: 2 parts lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil, and 1 part pure agave nectar
Make the tofu “feta”. You may want to do this ahead of time, as it will keep for several weeks. Rinse the Redwood Sorrel and greens, and allow to dry.
In a large bowl, combine spinach, diced mango, “feta,” sprouts, nuts, and Redwood Sorrel. Gently mix.
This salad is really good on its own, but if you’d like, you can make a simple dressing by combining lemon juice, oil, and agave nectar in a jar with a lid. Shake dressing ingredients to mix, and serve with the salad.